The future is here – it’s just not evenly distributed

Published on Thursday, 15th of September 2022

Photo: Nancy Bundt

Digital technologies are transforming not just our lives and work but also the dynamics of politics and conflict. Mediation to prevent and peacefully resolve armed conflicts has for long been a human-centred endeavour involving crucial personal interactions. But even mediation is not immune from the technological developments that impact public life and inter-personal relations on many levels.

The role of digital technologies in inclusive peacemaking was discussed at the 11th High-Level Seminar on Gender and Inclusive Mediation Strategies, held in Oslo 30 August – 1 September.

Current peacemaking occurs in highly fragmented and multi-layered conflict settings. Incorporating various stakeholders into a peace process is becoming increasingly important but also harder to operationalise.

The keynote speech delivered at the seminar reflected experiences from Libya on the ways digital dialogues were used to complement the formal political talks to foster the inclusivity of the process.

To respond to challenges of limited connectivity in the country, regional centres were established to provide secure and stable internet connections and to promote equal online participation. This enabled women and youth representatives from rural areas to take part and connected the online and offline dialogues on political, security, and economic issues.

The critical functions of technology – such as data processing, communications, and networking – make it possible to broaden participation beyond the seats at the negotiation table, diversify the representation of views and circumvent tensions between stakeholders that may undermine constructive interaction.

Although the use of digital technologies can yield many benefits, there are also new challenges and risks to overcome, such as hate speech and targeting of women in social media, as well as the inability to control the information that is spread online.

Regardless of the online violence women face, which intentionally limits their participation to public discussions, they are still motivated to take part through virtual means, as in many contexts women’s physical participation in events exposes them to greater risk. Leveraging digital technologies for participation can therefore increase the physical security of the participants.

Digital technologies can enhance inclusion in mediation processes and make them more efficient and sustainable by such things as strengthening the legitimacy of peace processes and their outcomes among the public. Digital technologies can also open up new and secure avenues for participation in processes by women, youth and marginalized and vulnerable groups.